It seems like every other day, there is a new tech story coming out of Boston. There’s “The Engine,” which is a new accelerator out of MIT. Or tech firm Carbonite announcing a new charitable fund strictly for tech education. Or even how Boston’s ties to Ireland make the country a “European launchpad” for our tech companies.
Rocket Farm Studios has been based out of Boston since 2008, and we’ve witnessed a lot of change and growth in the near decade. And since mobile is a growing area in tech here, we wanted to give some insight into what benefits similar businesses can expect here. Dan Katcher, CEO, and Scott D’Entremont, COO, sat down and reminisced about building a tech business in Boston.
Why do you like owning a company in Boston?
DK: It’s such a hub for tech. There is so much going on on the tech front these days, it’s really exciting. All these young, super-smart innovators collaborating with seasoned business people. There’s just so much energy and intelligence in this city.
SD: There’s a business culture here that supports entrepreneurship. Selfishly, there a huge market we can access for great employees. Not only are the colleges churning out top-notch people, a lot of people from other states and countries come here to work in tech. We’re spoiled that way.
DK: That’s very true. All the colleges here have stepped it up not just producing smart people, but smart ideas. It used to mostly come from Harvard or MIT but these days so many colleges have great incubators and pitch competitions. And that just puts out students that want to do great, big things.
SD: And more on the business side, Boston’s a big enough city that we have a solid entrepreneurial community here. So startups can get the financing, get the advisers, get employees and backers with solid track records. The city has a certain reputation for being a major tech hub and it’s just good for business in general.
DK: Yeah the startup culture here is strong. Boston has the people and the capital.
Even in the winter?
DK: Hey I love it. Walking my dog in the snow is awesome.
SD: I’m a skier. I love winter.
What stands out as some major benefits of being located in Boston?
DK: Well besides what we said previously, one thing is the physical location. We’re in the Seaport, which is awesome. It’s beautiful, fun, and we’ve got a lot of like-minded companies all around us. You can’t deny how good it is to be near the water.
SD: I’d say there’s a certain credibility boost that comes with being in a tech hot spot [like the Seaport]. We enjoy that benefit for sure. I think this area might be one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the country. Good thing we got here early!
DK: Also Boston, and I think the state as a whole, is very pro-tech. The government likes technology, I feel, and they’re progressive about opening up data. Like IoT (Internet of Things) initiatives, for example. The city really wants to be a leader in that area and that’s good for companies like us.
SD: We’re ten minutes from the airport too.
What changes have you seen over the last decade in Boston for businesses?
SD: I guess growth overall, in almost all aspects. We see it all around, but for us, since we’re in the mobile space, that growth has been amplified. I mean the iPhone came out a decade ago. The mobile sector in Boston has been a rocket ship.
DK: The sheer connectedness of the business world. It’s so easy to connect with people now, and that’s really important especially for businesses first starting out. And with that, the community has grown a ton.
SD: Also the increase in mobility, the increase in people working remotely, the cloud. I think tech has enabled people to work in very different ways and that’s mostly been a benefit.
What advice do you have for people starting businesses in Boston?
DK: Take advantage of the tech competitions here like the Mass Challenge and various pitch competitions. You can get a lot of exposure very quickly.
SD: And get used to the culture here. What I’ve come to find is that Boston is all about the steak and not the sizzle. Not many companies are overly flashy. It’s more about what their revenue picture looks like than flash. Boston companies are practical. It’s about when you’ll get your first customer. People just put their heads down and work hard. They don’t showboat.
Take advantage of what’s here. Be in the hotspots. Network enough and you’ll find the right people. And Boston has a ton of great advisers who genuinely want to help. They’re not hard to find and they know what they’re talking about because they’ve been there before.
DK: When I started the company, I wrangled a ticket to a forum by Scott Kirsner and got to sit at a consumer entrepreneurs round table. I got there with about twenty people and I said I don’t even have a name for this company yet but we develop apps. Out of that thing we closed two deals within a few days. So that’s amazing right there. Then, one of them was with LocaModa in Central Square. We went in there to kick off the project and the CEO, Stephen Randall, asked where our office was. Of course, we didn’t have one yet. So he said, “why don’t you move in here? I won’t charge you and we have plenty of space.” We were there for two-plus years, rent free.
Then we were looking for a fresh space and I bumped into the CEO of CityVoter, Josh Walkman, who was another very early client of ours. We got into a conversation about space and sure enough he also said, “why don’t you move in with us? We have plenty of space and we won’t charge you.” And so we got to stay there for a year, rent free. Both these things were so helpful and I’ve always tried to pay it forward to several startups since then. So network, network, network!
What’s been your Boston business story so far?